Tag Archive | planning

Two Year Anniversary – Stop Crying

New Years 2014 Fire Works

The Spark n Launch Team celebrate with some backyard fireworks…

According to WordPress we just celebrated our two year anniversary – two years since we registered this account. Since our first blog post we have published over 100 articles and written another 100 draft posts. The site attracts traffic from around the world and continues to increase it’s readership. Thanks to all our loyal followers!

Unfortunately most of the traffic is spam bots, and the quality & frequency of our posts has diminished. Nevertheless we will try and keep up the web presence. If you’re interested in guest blogging or want some links shared, get in touch. Drop us a comment and share some love!

For those looking for some inspiration, check out some of our published posts below. Got a favourite post – tweet it!

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In The Beginning:
Hello world! *
Starting a Blog – Don’t expect any Shakespeare
Working for the “Man” (Draft)

WordPress Links:
About
Social
Glossary *****
Tools
Table of Content (TOC) *****

Startups – Lists:
The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
The Top 100 UK Startups Revealed (2012) *****
The Top 100 UK Startups Revealed (25-50) *****

Startups – People:
Fabrice Grinda – Musings of a Serial Entrepreneur
Jason Calacanis talks to Alex Tew of Calm.com
The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Startups – Stories:
Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories *****
14 Year Old Girl: "Stop making excuses, make something awesome”
Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus *****
Samsung's Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
Lessons Learned – Be Your Own Boss *****

Startups – Lean:
The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank *****
Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business
Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day
The Apprentice – Lean Startup Builds Minimum Viable Product in Two Days?
Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

Startups – Weekends:
Startup Weekend: What to expect? How to prepare?
Startup Weekend: What to Expect?
Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0) *****
Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned in 54 Hours (Day 1) (Draft)
Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned in 54 Hours (Day 2) (Draft)
Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned in 54 Hours (Day 3) (Draft)

Entrepreneur:
The Year of The Entrepreneur – It’s YOU again

Business Ideas / Business Planning:
How to go from Idea Guy to Execution Guy? ****
Evaluate Your Business Idea – Evaluating your spark
Business Plans – "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail" (includes business plan template)
Starting Up – 9 Business Selection Criteria
Another Way To Plan – The Business Model v Business Plan *****
Step 1 – Where to Begin
How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken? *****
Thinking of Starting a Startup? 8 Sentiments To Think About ****

Customer Development:
Ghetto Testing the Viability of an Idea
A Smart Bear – Jason Cohen on Startups *****

People / Management:
Why Being a Deal Maker Matters To Your Team

Social Media / Blogging:
Twitter – Tweeting to your #audience
The Problem with Twitter – Social Disconnection by Stealth ****
Blogging: How Do You Promote Your Blog Posts? *****
Blogging: How To Get New Traffic To Old Blog Posts? *****
Blogging: Is Blogging Dead?

Social Media – Experiments:
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment #1
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #2
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3
Technorati – Does the verification process work?
Technorati – Does the verification process work? (Yes it does!)
Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
Social Media Experiment – How we made it onto the BBC!

Brand / Marketing:
Picking a name – The importance of brand
Affiliate Marketing 101
Lessons Learned From 10,000 Page Views ****
Online Advertising Experiment with Google AdWords
Happy V Day – Seasonal Opportunities
The Zoo Project – A Fantastic Marketing Opportunity
Product Functionality Often Trumps Beauty

Traffic / SEO:
How do you get on the Frontpage of Hacker News? (4 Links in 1 Day) ****
Lessons Learned From A Hacker News Traffic Spike ****

Design:
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – Ugly Websites That Went Viral ****

Toolkit:
Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs – Q&As
Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs
Creating Your Very Best Startup Business Logo ****
Podcasts – Hearing and Learning From Others
Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening
Weekly Digest #1 – How We Stumbled Upon Top Biz Resources
Weekly Digest #2 – More Golden Resources for Startup Entreprenuers
New Startup Lingo – More Buzzwords
The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #2
The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo
The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
Need Startup Advice? – Just Ask Online

Funding:
Crowdsurfing: Alternatives to Kickstarter
Kickstarter: Ouya raises $1million in 8 hours and 22 minutes ***
Ouya Breaks Crowdfunding Record – Exceeds Target By Millions
Startup Funding: I’m 15 With An Amazing Product Idea
Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available In Europe
Raising Money (Draft)
Working Full Time and Bootstrapping Your Business Startup (Draft)

Web:
Web Stats – Who is top of the league table? ***

Rants / Musings:
Why is everything broken? (Draft)
Getting Real – It’s a project, not a startup (Draft)
Web Two is awesome – Web 2.0 changes our surfing experience
The Public Image of Business People (Footballers versus Bankers)
To Code or Not To Code

Messages:
100 Posts – Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Be the First to Like Us on Facebook
Who Are We? About Us Page Updated in FAQ Format
Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers
Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers (Follow Up)
Blog Milestone – Lessons Learned From 50 Blog Posts
New Month, New Look – What Do You Think?
Blog Milestone – 30th Post – What it means? (Mostly nothing)
Project Mackerel – Please Sir… Complete our quick survey?
Upcoming Posts – Please Vote
Project Mackerel – Sneek Peek of Prototype

Weird / Unclassified:
It’s a numbers game – 11/11/11 @ 11:11:11
Happy New Years – Bring on 2012!
Random Generated Startup – Life gets easier (again)
Get hired with the help of your friend, Mark Zuckerberg?
The London Olympics 2012 (In Infographics)
Technology – Is a black pixel on or off? ****
Leap Year – 3 interesting facts about 29 February
April Fools Day – Some of Our Favourites
Friday 13th – 3 interesting facts
How the $16bn Facebook IPO looks like in cash (Image) **

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

This Site Gets More Hits than You

Cute Cute Little Cat

Cute Cute Little Cat

Reddit, the supposed frontpage of the Internet drags in a massive amount of traffic. It records, approximately:

+ 15 million unique visits per month
+ 50 – 100 thousand unique visits per hour
+ 150 million pageviews by month
+ 100 – 250 thousand pageviews by month
+ 5 million pageviews by day
+ 8 thousand subscriptions by day

It’s ranked 27th in the US and 69th in the world by Alexa!

The numbers are amazing and explains why Reddit has become such a popular place for visitors, including spammers. While the community is quite harsh on spam, there are various places where you can advertise legitimately. A successful post could drive millions of visitors to your site. Scary!

So next time you see a cute cat picture. It is likely it originated from Reddit! *meow*

Image Credit: Desktop HD Wallpapers

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You might also enjoy:
+ Kickstarter: Ouya raises $1million in 8 hours and 22 minutes
+ Ouya Breaks Crowdfunding Record – Exceeds Target By Millions
+ Startup Weekend: What to expect? How to prepare?
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Analysis – Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available in Europe

Good News for Crowd Funding and Startup Financing

In November 2012 we published an article titled “Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available in Europe“. The post described Kickstarter, the well known crowd funding platform, entering the UK market.

In October 2012 Kickstarter opened it’s doors to projects in the UK. This was a remarkable event as at the time, as crowd funding was just coming into the forefront for entrepreneurs to gain financing (in the shadows of a depressed economy). This was fantastic news Kickstarter is available to projects in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Something Strange

The strange part was that this one post has attracted the highest volume of traffic, almost 5,000 views since it was published. And we don’t know why?!

The bulk of site visitors are from the US, then way back are UK visitors.

On keywords, it does seem that the combination of “kickstarter” and “europe” are popular:

kickstarter europe (434)
kickstarter in europe (53)
kickstarter for europe (5)
european kickstarter (15)
kickstarter from europe (13)
kick starter europe (12)
kickstarter europe alternative (12)

One thought may be that very few articles write about Kickstarter in Europe. Rather they write about “Kickstarter in the UK”. Hence our post has scored a high Google page rank and we can maintain this traffic (for now).

SEO

We guess we will leave this for the SEO experts to analyse. For now, thanks for visiting our site!

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You might also enjoy:
+ Kickstarter: Ouya raises $1million in 8 hours and 22 minutes
+ Ouya Breaks Crowdfunding Record – Exceeds Target By Millions
+ Startup Weekend: What to expect? How to prepare?
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Startup Weekend: What to Expect?

The Startup Weekend Series: This entry is part of a series of blog posts about attending a startup weekend event. These posts will help those people who have never attended a weekend hackathon or those wishing to maximise their experiences.

First Day

Don’t forget a firm handshake and eye contact…

Image Credit: Career Girl Network

Prior Perpetration Prevent Poor Performance

A while ago we asked you what to expect from a startup weekend. We shared the below useful articles on startups weekends, pitching advice, and podcast on what to expect.

1. Startup Weekend FAQ – A set of helpful question and answers.
2. Pitching advice for Startup Weekend – Simple and effective tips for preparing your pitch.
3. Podcast with the CEO of Startup Weekend – An insight of the Startup Weekend events and organisation.

54 Hours Case Study

However if you need a little more information, Howard Kingston describes his 54 hours during a Startup Weeked held in London. In his Huffington Post article he shares his experiences when “300 ambitious entrepreneurs get into a room and have 54 hours to launch a business”.

It is a great case study on the weekend, and you can easily gain an appreciation for the 54 hours. Also, check out Youtube for video footage of past weekends.

Top Tips

What are the key learnings? Be prepared, be selective, be different, be available and add value.

1) Be Prepared

Understand the schedule.
Determine what you can offer your team.
Do some homework.
Be prepared to network, deliver a pitch, contribute to a team and stay up late!

2) Be Selective

From day one, try and focus on a single idea or product.
Join a team made up individuals you believe you can learn.

3) Be Different

Stand out with your idea or offering.
Normally the exciting ideas get the most attraction during the weekend.
Boring or safe options usually don’t attract the excitement.

4) Be Available

Be flexible, be available, be able to contribute.
Make sure you can help your team on the weekend.
Avoid disappearing to other events.
Commit to the full 54 hours.

5) Be Valuable

Even if you’re not a programmer, read up on methodologies and validation processes.
Check out some marketing tutorials.
Create the twitter account and facebook pages. Build the vibe around the venue with posters and handouts.

Inspiration

Good luck with your weekend. If you need some inspiration, just check out links below. Both offer some great inspiration. Remember you don’t need to create a new idea. Sometimes the best ideas are already out there – they just need someone to execute them.

+ Ideas Watch – A website for entreprenuers looking to share and develop ideas. Thousands of ideas available for discussion.
+ Flippa – Websites and applications ready for sale. Gain an insight into the website marketplace.

Got something to share? Drop us a line using the social media links below!

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Startup Funding: I’m 15 With An Amazing Product Idea

quora_question_answer_funding_startups

Hi, I’m 15 With An Amazing Product Idea

Recently on Quora a bright eyed kid asked for some advice.

Like most youngsters they had come up with a great product idea. A simple idea that could solve a common problem. They asked:

“Q. I’m a 15 year old with an amazing product idea. Should I ask for funding?”

“I feel like I have a stellar idea that everyone will benefit from, but I don’t have a lot of the skills needed to make the software. Should I go to a local firm and pitch my idea so I can receive support and/or hire a contractor or two to help me write the code, or am I being too ambitious?”

We are not given too much more information but on the surface this looks admirable. You have to admire the kid’s ambition. Certainly easy money may be available, especially to motivated young people. However it all feels too soon to be knocking up investors for cash.

We suggest: “Build it first, then ask for money.”

Build It First, Then Ask For Money

We think the key here is to build evidence demonstrating the idea is actually a good one. Good in the sense it is commercially viable to put money into. Or simply will this product idea create value.

Start by validating your idea. Ask family, friends, teachers, acquaintances and potential customers if they would buy or use the product.

Then look at building a prototype or minimum viable product. First prove to yourself that the product is worth pursuing. Then worry about funding.

No one is going to throw money at you until you can demonstrate – i) you have taken time and effort to think about the idea; ii) you have gone out and validated the idea; and iii) you have drawn out a plan for getting the idea to market.

They may however throw some money at you when you’ve proved you are truly interested in taking the concept forward. And don’t forget, those friends and family you speak to early on, may well offer to help out – with money or their time!

Closing Point

The one benefit of being young is that many adults are likely to give you a moment of their time. Therefore if you can put together a strong plan and proposal – the money, or at least the good (free) advice will follow.

If your 15 with an amazing idea. Drop us a line. We’d love to hear your story.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Your Holiday is Now Over

head_in_hands_disappointment_sadness

Your Holiday is Now Over

You spent the last couple of weeks frolicking in joy and laziness. You got into a habit of waking up after midday. Well sadly the holiday is officially over. For most, you are forced to resume your daily commute to your office cubicle. You can now begin the 365 day countdown to the next summer holiday break.

On the Plus Side

The good news is that you can get back to pursuing your dreams. New years is often the time for reflection and goal setting. January is time to start pursuing your new year’s resolutions. Those goals we set ourself that are often forgotten by January 31st.

Goal Setting

Let’s make 2013 different! Let’s write down some goals/resolutions and aim to fulfil them. Let’s prove those sceptics wrong and show them that new year’s resolutions can be met and even exceeded.

Step 1

According to the experts, you should try the following:

+ Decide what you want.
+ Start small, but keep walking.
+ Be positive when stating your goals.
+ Don’t underestimate yourself.
+ Write it down.
+ Affirm it.
+ Stop procrastinating.
+ Habituate yourself to liking the challenges.
+ Review your progress.

The focus is setting realistic and positive goals that you can monitor. Writing them down and sticking them on your wall can be a massive motivator. It can also prompt visitors to press you on your progress.

Our Goals

In 2013:

+ We want to write better posts by being better story tellers.
+ We want to build more things by stop making excuses for not building things.
+ We want to learn more from others by talking more to others.

What are your goals?

Drop us a line, leave is a comment. Share the love. Good luck in 2013!

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Why Why Why Why Why – The Five Whys?

why why why why why five whys

Overview

We just finished listening to Mark Graban’s interview with Lean Startup author Eris Ries. The two talk about Taiichi Ohno’s influence on their lean methodologies.

Taiichi Ohno is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which later became Lean Manufacturing. His written experiences at Toyota heavily influenced the manufacturing industries across the globe.

The two agree that Ohno’s books may lack the western style instruction many readers seek out however do praise the author on his alternative approach to manufacturing and it’s powerful application across all industries.

What stood out from the interview was Eric’s impressions of Ohno’s approach to root cause analysis – the five whys. The approach is a simplistic but powerful method of solving problems. Let us take a look…

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The “5 Whys” Problem Solving Approach

Essentially the five whys ask why until the cause of the problem is identified. This leads to the ultimate question – How do we fix this problem once and for all? You can keep asking why until you drive out all issues.

Here is an example (Wikipedia):

The Problem: The vehicle will not start.

First Why? Why? – The battery is dead.
Second Why? Why? – The alternator is not functioning.
Third Why? Why? – The alternator belt has broken.
Fourth Why? Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced.
Fifth Why? Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule.
Sixth Why? Why? – Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of the vehicle.

Often we overlook the cause of problems; or shy away from asking the simple questions. Sometimes going back to basics can solve the most complex questions.

Did this help? Let us know.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening
+ Helpful Startup Tools For Entrepreneurs

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

How to go from Idea Guy to Execution Guy?

Startup Business Idea Execution

Great Expecations

You are always thinking up great ideas. Good, bad the ugly. Your bedside notebook is full of brilliant ideas to turn you into the next business billionare. One problem, you never execute any of these ideas.

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The Idea Guy

A recent question to Quora asked: How do I go from being an idea/vision guy to an idea and execution guy?

It strikes at the very problem many entreprenuers face. How do we get started? How do we take these ideas and make them real? Execution (good or bad) seperates the men from the boys…

Start Executing

Want to go from day dreamer to execution guru. Here are some steps. Be warned you may actually execute something!

1) Open your idea notebook – If you have one, open it to page 1. If you don’t have one, you ask yourself ig you really are the “ideas” guy.

Inc.com writes: “Get them out of your head and onto paper. Having all of this brilliance trapped in your brain is exhausting – it wants out!”

2) Choose an idea – Pick the easiet and smallest idea you have. Pick one.

3) Execute – That’s right. Give yourself one month to execute that idea.

Add a reminder in your calendar, stick a post-it on your front door. For the next 30/31 days you need to deliver.

4) Complete – If you executed the idea, congrate yourself and pick the next idea to execute. If you failed, keep going until the idea is executed.

5) Practice – Practice makes perfect. Keep refining your execution skills and proving to yourself and others you have atarck record of delivering.

Did these steps help? Did you execute? Let us know.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

The concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has grown in popularity, mostly due to Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methodologies. Ries writes:

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

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How much or how little is “minimum”?

There is some contention on how much or how little constitutes “minimum”. Too much and you risk investing too much time and effort in building an obsolete product. Too little and you cannot conclusively gather meaningful results.

The right place is probably half-way in the middle. Your minimum product should allow the maximum amount of learning, with the least amount of effort. Balance the costs and benefits.

Building your “mini” MVP

The common flaw of the average entrepreneur is having too many ideas and not being able to execute all or any of these concepts. We were thinking that entrepreneurs should utilise the most painless and quick mechanisms for testing ideas.

Two well known stories come to mind:

1) GroupOn – While the founders spent time with various customer development experiments, it was two cheap and dirty methods that tested their ideas. The first was a simple blog (ThePoint) that attracted like minded people to create promotional campaigns. The second was offering pizza coupons posted on an apartment building communal bulletin board.

2) Drop Box – A short video showing the problem, product and solution gained mass interest. The interest justified investing the time and effort to build the product.

Two quick and extremely simple techniques to get an idea to the market.

Closing

Lean startup and the minimum viable product concepts encourage entrepreneurs to not waste time building products customers do not want. Existing startups have shown that a minimum viable product can be as simple as a landing page. Therefore anyone should be able to quickly and easily build a mini MVP to validate their ideas (no matter how basic). What are you waiting for?

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You might also enjoy:
+ Our Table of Contents
+ Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day
+ The Apprentice – Lean Startup Builds Minimum Viable Product in Two Days?
+ How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken?
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Lessons Learned – Be Your Own Boss

Be Your Own Boss

The new entrepreneur TV series “Be Your Own Boss” started a couple of weeks ago on the BBC. This is an extension to the BBC’s portfolio of pop-business productions that includes Dragons Den and The Apprentice.

These shows are definitely pitched at the mainstream and simplify aspects of starting a business. The X-Factor style delivery can easily be criticised. Nevertheless Be Your Own Boss proves to offer some real nuggets to aspiring entrepreneurs. It preaches the freedom and satisfaction that can come from building your own business. Noble aspirations in times the current climate of high unemployment and declining opportunities for young people.

Innocent Drinks

The show follows Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed and his search for bright minds with great ideas to invest in. Richard’s own story is inspiring.

From Wikipedia:

+ Innocent was founded by three graduates – Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright.
+ In 1998, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London.
+ People were asked to put their empty bottles in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the ‘YES’ bin was full, with only three cups in the ‘NO’ bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned.
+ Had a lucky break when Maurice Pinto, a wealthy American businessman decided to invest £250,000.
+ In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to taking the product to market.
+ In 2009 the company sold a small stake of between 10 and 20% to The Coca-Cola Company, with the three founders retaining all operational control for £30 million.
+ In 2010 Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% from 18% for about £65 million.
+ The three founders continue to retain full operational control.

Lessons from the Boss

Richard is brutally honest to hopeful candidates and rightly so. How can people seriously ask to use someone’s money to “conduct market research” or “advertise”?

In a way he is the typical angel investor seeking to reapply their recipe of success to others. Richard is constantly talking about the virtues of aiming big and getting into supermarkets; and knocking on doors of retailers to know if the product has any demand.

He also dismisses some ideas he is not passionate about. Rightly so given it will be his time and money he is investing. However occasionally he seems a little too quick to dismiss a pitch. Maybe some of the detail is lost in the editing.

The key points that stand out:

+ Validate your idea and product immediately. Determine if a market and demand exist.
+ Speak to people and potential customers.
+ Forget social media. You need to knock on doors and speak to people.
+ Get orders. The ultimate sign of a good idea is selling (even it is pre-selling before the product is available).
+ Be serious and take advise. Don’t expect investment if you’re closed or not at the right stage for investment.
+ Know your strategy.

There are many more, but the message of getting outside the building and conducting customer development is clear.

Stay Tuned

The series is entertaining and even features the occasional cameo from business legend Richard Branson. So far Richard Reed (not Branson) has invested in a couple of clever ideas. Let’s see if they reap him as much reward as Innocent.

Some of the Ventures so far (more here):

Week 1: Mango Bikes
Week 2: Twists Pasta Bar
Week 3: MixPixie

Image Credit: BBC

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank

lean startup customer development steve blak feedback loop

tl;dr Steve Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build Lean Startup. The Lean Launchpad classes offer entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn how to apply customer development and lean startup concepts to testing and building their business ideas.

The History of Lean Startup

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur who now spends his time teaching entrepreneurship to students. His early writings on customer development (The Four Steps to the Epiphany) have evolved into the Lean Launchpad. The Lean Launchpad provides entrepenuers with an online, interactive envrionment to learn all that is needed to understand and apply the lean startup methodologies.

In Blank’s most recent blog post he reiterates his discovery and journey.

The Journey

Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build lean startup. They found that the traditional business tools did not apply to startups.

+ Startups are different – Ten years ago he started thinking about why startups are different from existing companies. He questioned: Are business plans suitable for startups? Is execution all that matters?

+ Business models first, business plans later – Blank thought that startups needed business models before business plans. This lead him to come up with “customer development” – the formal methodology to search for a business model.

+ Business models before execution – He believed that Customer Development needed traditional product management. This process is documented in Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany.

+ Lean Startup and Eric Ries – In 2003 Blank was approached to teach a class in Customer Development at Haas Business School. He insisted that Eric Ries be in the class. (Blank had an investment in Ries’s IMVU business.) Ries argued that the traditional product management and waterfall development should be replaced by agile development. This approach was named “Lean Startup”.

+ Standardising the Business Model – Until now the structure of the business model remained vague. However Alexander Osterwalder wrote Business Model Generation that allowed entrepreneurs to build an operating plan around their search for a business. The business model canvas simplified the planning process and pressed entrepreneurs for real answers to tough questions.

+ Testing the theory – The startup methodology remained scientific theory until the National Science Foundation approached Blank to teach the concepts to a group of scientists. They wanted to apply the theory to commercialising their basic research. This triggered the rollout of the Lean Launchpad course. Now real entrepreneurs are applying the theory to real startup scenarios.

Conclusion

Blank has turned building a startup into a science. His publications and theories have encouraged many entrepreneurs to think more about their business before leaping into the abyss. While some may argue entrepreneurship is not a science that can be taught, the Lean Launchpad provides an intelligent framework for those looking for some direction and stability in their search for the next big business.

Links:
+ Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business
+ Extracts from The Four Steps to the Epiphany (pdf)

Image Credit: The Lean Startup

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Starting Up – 9 Business Selection Criteria

Small Business and Startup Selection Criteria For Entrepreneurs

Last week we wrote about Fabrice Grinda, a serial startup entrepreneur. During a podcast interview he spoke about his experiences on building large successful businesses. On his blog he writes about his experiences and shares a wealth of knowledge.

One area of interest is his writings on business ideas and business selection criteria. Below we have summarised his approach to picking a business idea or market to enter. They are not a stringent set of rules but do present some strong points to consider when brainstorming your next startup.

9 Business Selection Criteria

1. At least $1 billion addressable market – May be easier to obtain funding and holds greater upside potential.

2. A valid business model from the beginning – This is having an understanding of how the business will generate money. The stronger the cash flows and balance sheet, the better chance of business longevity. Grinda later removed this criteria however increases the risk of the business idea.

3. Does not require more than $2 million in seed or $15 million in first round VC money – Any more, and the business may be too large for a startup to build.

4. An opportunity to be one of the top players (market or region) – Consider markets where large players do not hold strong positions.

5. A scalable idea – An idea that can be grown.

6. A business with little or no risk of margin compression – Beware of markets where customers and/or suppliers can controls revenues and expenses. These create variables you cannot control.

7. A business in a rapidly growing market – Share the success in fast growing markets.

8. An idea that you can execute or learn to execute – Focus on an area where you have a clear advantage.

9. An idea that you want to do! – Pursue a business you have a genuine interest or passion in.

Note: These criteria are taken from a 2005 blog post and may not suit everyone.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Fabrice Grinda – Musings of a Serial Entrepreneur

tl;dr Serial entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda shares his intriguing background with Andrew Warner (Mixergy). Grinda started at a young age selling computers and went on to build and sell larger businesses (auction site Aucland and mobile company Zingy). His approach to big ideas and large scale execution is inspiring to all entrepreneurs.

Musings of a Serial Entrepreneur

We just finished listening to a great startup podcast with Fabrice Grinda. Embarrassingly we hadn’t heard of him before however he is a serial entrepreneur with an impressive track record.

In the early days Grinda started selling computers between the US and Europe, realising a price and time arbitrage opportunity to sell newer spec computers to Europeans. Fabrice later went to work at McKinsey but grew tired of corporate life and left to start Aucland, at the time the European version of eBay.

After the successful exploration of various other ventures, Grinda went on to found Zingy, a mobile ringtones, wallpapers and games company. He later sold this to a Japanese based firm a few years later for $80 million. By then the company had numerous big name mobile companies on their books, including Sprint and Verizon.

He now runs OLX, a free online classifieds and auctions site. He also is heavily involved in the startup scene, investing in several up and coming startups.

The highlight of the interview is hearing Grinda’s approach to product generation and how well he executes. He is not scared to create a business that already exists. He challenged eBay and Amazon and survived. He persevered with Zingy and won. He writes more on his business selection criteria on his blog.

Links

+ Check out the Mixergy podcast with Fabrice Grinda.
+ Visit Fabrice Grinda’s excellent and informative blog – Musings of a Serial Entrepreneur.

Image Credit: The Old Fashioned

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

A couple of months ago we asked you “what to expect?” and “how to prepare” for a startup weekend. Several readers replied and we are pleased to start sharing their responses. This is the second instalment of the startup weekend series (#1).

These posts can help others maximise the ultimate experience of building a early startup within a condensed period of time (while having fun!). The content may apply to any other accelerator weekend or hackathon.

Here are some tips for before the event:

1. Get Registered

The frequency of events is on the rise. However the popular events sell out quickly. Make sure you set a reminder and register early. If you miss out – join the waiting list or beg. If you cannot attend as a participant, maybe you can help out as a volunteer or mentor; or watch the final presentations.

2. Check the Schedule

Get hold of an agenda from the event or previous events. The typical format maybe:

Friday – Networking, ice-breaker, pitch idea, vote for top idea, form teams.
Saturday – Plan, design, discuss. Start building.
Sunday – Finalise product/prototype and presentation. Pitch to the judges. Prize giving.

3. Who are you?

The weekend has a strong dependency on you and your abilities. You don’t need to be a guru but you should be clear on where and how you can help (technically and interpersonally). Think about your strengths and don’t limit yourself. You may not know how to code, but you may be great at motivating the team or using Google. Every bit of enthusiasm and positive thinking helps during the 54 hours.

4. What do you want to learn?

Be clear on what you want to learn from the weekend. Look out for opportunities to gain that new skill. You will be exposed to a diverse range of experts and people working in the field. Utilise the chance to ask these guys some tough questions.

5. Networking

The event brings together a pool of talented and driven individuals just like you. A startup weekend gives you an opportunity to meet and impress like-minded people.

Get some business cards (name, phone number, email and twitter handle are sufficient). Check out the social media sites. Start speaking to those attending before the day and stay in touch.

6. Homework

Startup experts like Blank, Ries and Osterwalder have developed frameworks to plan and implement your idea or concept. Check out some startup methodologies and be prepared to draw on this knowledge.

The key things to know are how to generate an idea, evaluate an idea and perform some kind of customer validation. The Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and Jason Cohen’s articles on customer Validation.

7. Pitching – Part 1

This deserves a separate post. It can be nerve racking but ultimately prepares your for future pitches and gives you some control over the weekend (if you attract enough votes).

At some events half the room will pitch. The most business viable proposals are often forgotten. Designers and developers are keen to work on interesting and creative projects. Pitch something that will gain the interest of a team, rather than funding. Concepts that will utilise popular technology are always popular.

i) First, brainstorm your ideas down on a piece a paper by considering the following:

- Problems – What things do I see everyday that I want to fix?
- Pain Points – What really annoys me? What is totally inefficient?
- Random – Whatever else is on your mind?

Add:
- Customer – Who is your target market?
- USP – What is your unique selling point/proposition (USP)?

An example of a simple template – Four boxes for each idea (Problem, Segment, Pros, Cons).

ii) Second, pick you favourites and attempt to apply a solution. Think about how the prototype will look and what elements it will incorporate:

- Web based application,
- Mobile based application,
- Social networking site,
- Location based,
- Game based.

You will dive deeper into the product once you form a team.

iii) Thirdly, combine these thoughts and pick the best one or two.

Discuss these ideas with your friends, family and/or colleagues.

8. Pitching – Part 2

Now you have your idea(s), it’s time to build the pitch. Commonly you only have a minute to sell yourself and idea. Split your 60 seconds into these sections:

- Who are you? (5-10s)
- What’s the problem? (10-15s)
- What’s the proposed solution? (10-15s)
- Who are you looking for? (5-10s)

Remember to smile and be enthusiastic. Keep cool and don’t forget your in a friendly and open forum. You are not the only one a little nervous. Standing out will help people remember you. Silly hats or body paint may help.

At the end of all the pitches you should be given an opportunity to summarise the pitch on a piece of paper. Make sure it stands out and simply explains the main elements of your idea. Finally the audience will vote.

You may need to hustle people to get their votes or combine with others to gain enough votes.

Don’t get upset if you don’t get enough votes. Join a team where you can show off your skills and learn new things. After all, the weekend is all about learning and networking. The idea is not as important as the process.

9. Pack Your Bag

Pack a pen, paper, iPad, laptop, business cards, sleeping bag, enthusiasm… Get ready for an exciting 54 hours.

10. Resources

If you need more information, checkout the organisers website and social media pages (including YouTube). The below links may help as well.

- Startup Weekend FAQ – A set of helpful question and answers.
- Pitching advice for Startup Weekend – Simple and effective tips for preparing your pitch.
- Podcast with the CEO of Startup Weekend – An insight of the Startup Weekend events and organisation.
- More Startup Articles – Read more of our posts on startups.

Good luck and drop us a line. We would love to hear from you.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Creating Your Very Best Startup Business Logo

Startups.co.uk have published a really helpful article getting your logo professionally designed. Your logo will be the face of your company and therefore has importantn consequences to how customers respond.

1. Know the name of your company – Does the name reflect what you do?

2. Style of your business logo – Font based, representative or abstract? Will your logo instantly communicate what you do?

3. The message behind your business logo – What is your unique selling point (USP)?

4. Make a business logo fit for purpose – Where will you use your logo? Websites, instantiation, business cards?

5. Research your designer – Check out their previous work and customer testimonials. Avoid picking on price alone.

99Designs who provide an online market place for designers offer similar logo designing tips and advice.

1. Picture the name – Use images to convey your product or service.

2. Get quirky – Select something different to stand out from the crowd and be memorable.

3. Create a superhero logo – Common themes help customers associate and remember your logo.

4. Twitterize it – The 99Designs article suggests using Twitter as your inspiration. However they better suggestion would be considering how your logo will transcend mediums. How will your logo look in Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and other social media platforms?

5. Make it 3D – These logo require are more complex to create however add a level of expertise and professionalism. Good examples are Xerox and even Llyoyds Bank.

We hope these tips help. Leave a comment and share a link to your startup logo.

Image Credit: FieldID

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

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